“Happiness is a state of mind, not a set of circumstances.” – Emma Higgins, Link to Website
It seems lately that expectations have been a recurring theme in my life, mainly because I have a lot of them. Mostly unrealistic, which I am slowly becoming more aware of. I’m realizing that just because we perceive a certain path to be right for us and that will bring us happiness, doesn’t necessarily mean that it truly is right for us. Because in reality, happiness does not come from our circumstances or the paths we take, but rather our state of mind while we are on our journey.
In the article, Higgins states that scientific research has proved this idea that “genuine and stable happiness was associated with a person’s internal state, and less dependent on their circumstances…those who are more selflessly inclined and psychologically prepared for whatever life brings, experience a more durable sense of inner peace (Frontiers in Psychology, Dambrun)” So in other words, it really doesn’t matter THAT much what our circumstances are. We could have everything or we could have nothing and still be happy or unhappy because it’s all about our attitude and state of mind.
My next question is, what controls our attitude and state of mind? You guessed it – our expectations. When we create expectations it sets us up to have a certain attitude that we carry within our circumstance. Say we expect that out of college we are going to get this amazing job opportunity because of our degree. Then months go by, and we apply for numerous jobs, only to get declined everywhere. We start to feel disappointed. We begin to doubt ourselves, our ability. Our state of mind is clearly in the negative. Obviously because of this our happiness level also begins to fall. Of course, yes, not getting what we want is always a disappointment, but ultimately that disappointment does not determine our happiness. We can still be happy during unhappy circumstances and we can do this by pre-determining our state of mind.
When we pre-determine our state of mind and as the article states, “psychologically prepare for whatever life brings,” we set ourselves up to feel a sense of peace through whatever circumstances we may face, happy or sad. We can have the expectation of no expectation. What I mean by that is to not create certain expectations over how things should play out in our lives. Once we begin to believe that by having these expectations we somehow have control, we’re pretty much setting ourselves up for disappointment and unhappiness. However, when we accept that in reality we have no control over our circumstances, and that life just happens, good and bad, and we can try our best to make wise choices, then we finally begin to experience inner peace. Giving up control is the key, that is when we will finally begin to let go of all of our expectations.
Sure, it’s good to have goals and set some loose expectations of how we would like things to play out, but they should never be set in stone to the point where they can make or break us so easily. Instead we must carry the attitude of understanding that life is unpredictable, and that it’s ok to not know exactly what is going to happen sometimes. We can still survive and even thrive without complete certainty.
The Self Love Challenge: Create no expectations.
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